The Web Design Triangle - It’s A Crutch!

The following is a guest post by Web ManagerMcCready. Web Manageris the web services manager at a college in Canada. He has been involved web development for 10 years with a focus on education and the Web for the last 3 years.  He posts regularly to his blog,, where the topics focus on higher education, marketing and the social web.  Web Managercan be contacted at or follow him on Twitter.

I’d like to thank the authors of .eduGuru for allowing to submit this guest post.  Feel free to send questions and/or comments my way and I will respond to them all.

In any environment where the nature of the work isn’t fully understood, misconceptions are formed. These misconceptions lead to poor decisions.  This is usually the case with media development (web, social, video, etc.) in higher education.  We’ve all heard of the project triangle or some variation of that where you have qualityprice, and time - each represented in a corner.  In this metaphor, you can only choose two of the possible three options.  You can have quality and a quick turnaround, but it’s going to cost.  Or you can have cheap and quick at the sacrifice of quality.  Or you can have quality and low cost, but it’s going to take some time.

webdesigntriangle The Web Design Triangle   It’s A Crutch!

I think in a lot cases, this triangle can be very beneficial in explaining to senior leadership at your school that web development isn’t something that can be cranked out quickly without sacrificing quality or it costing a lot.

That being said, I think the project triangle is a crutch! I am proposing that none of the points of the triangle really need to be sacrificed.  The secret… planning and education.  Like I mentioned earlier, when those at your school don’t understand the work involved in developing a microsite for a new campaign or other web projects, they may leave it to the last minute and expect it to roll out.  If you refer back to the triangle, what ends up happening is quality is sacrificed for for quickness and low cost.

By educating those in the various areas of your school of the development time for the Web and the importance of planning for the Web from the beginning, there needs be no sacrifice.

I’ll be writing more in the near future about planning for web development projects.

Photo Credit: Pyramid by Pixieslayer

12 Responses to “The Web Design Triangle - It’s A Crutch!”

  1. Says:

    if an institution isn’t “paying” for web development work, but assigning staff, …then “cost” is an interesting topic. A project that needs to be completed “good” AND “fast” will be paid for in different ways.

  2. Says:

    I’ve been preaching that maxim for some time: fast, good, cheap - pick any two. But quality often isn’t variable - it’s not something most people compromise on easily and it’s not something most people can control given more time and resources. Sure, the difference of a 2 hour design and a 20 hour design is apparent, but a 20 hour design and a 200 hour design may not be.

    I learned that the it’s not quality but scope that comprises the third side of the triangle. The scope of a project tends to change, and that’s where this “equation” comes in. You can’t do more work in the same time without increasing the cost.

    Re: internal costs - Opportunity costs are just as critical as dollars when staff time is booked.

  3. Says:

    If you’re educating your departments and asking them to plan their projects, aren’t you asking them to sacrifice time in exchange for quality and cost?

    You could make the same argument that asking someone to do their homework and investigate multiple firms before outsourcing is a way to reduce cost — but you’re still sacrificing time to lower cost (in this case, in the form of research).

    Sorry, but I don’t buy it. The relationship between these three things is real. If something is done cheaply, with good quality and super-fast, then SOMEONE is footing the bill for that (and it may well be the person doing the work!). In fair dealings, this triangle remains as-is. [IMHO]

  4. Says:

    Hi Aaron,

    I don’t disagree with you that the relationship between the 3 items is real. What the issue is when institutions use this model as a crutch to drop quality, because quality is usually the first to go when poor planning and education are rampant.

    So I would like to see a shift (and currently working on it at my school) for people to realize the planning that is required and that quality doesn’t have to be sacrificed.

    What’s the old adage, “If you’re going to do something, do it right the first time.”

    Bottom line - I agree with your comments, just would like to see this triangle not used as crutch. Why do we only have to pick one?

  5. Says:

    Beside of the above three main factors, you need to have the ability to negotiate with your clients, as it’s also one of the important factors that will determine whether you’re in or out from this web design business!

  6. Says:


    Ok — I dig what you’re saying.

    As someone who works web in higher ed, I TOTALLY know what you’re talking about. I frequently get people asking me to do some complex web work,bringing me in at the last minute. (This was happening even within my own department!)

    I refuse to put out something second-rate though, so I just make them wait. They learn for the next time. :)

  7. Says:

    Ultimately, the old saying, “you get what you pay for” applies in many ways. If you want something cheap, that’s what you’ll get.

  8. Says:

    absolutely brilliant! i have been looking for the right explanations for my clients for their projects but they always end up with the WHYs. So i guess this will help me big time. Thanks for the info!

    • Says:

      Thanks for the positive comments on these thoughts. If you want to check more of my thoughts, head over to my blog at

  9. Says:

    I found your blog on google and read a few of your other posts. I just added you to my Google News Reader. Keep up the good work. Look forward to reading more from you in the future.

  10. Says:

    very good post. I really liked it.

  11. Says:

    thank you very good article